THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1948)
209 West Houston St.
Through Thursday, February 6
Orson Welles followed up the creepy black-and-white Holocaust thriller, The Stranger, with this colorful, in-your-face noir about a rogue Irish sea captain and the gorgeous wife of a crippled rich man. Welles plays the shifty seaman, Michael O’Hara, with an in-and-out Irish accent; his estranged wife, Rita Hayworth, is simply breathtaking as the femme fatale, Elsa “Rosalie” Bannister; Everett Sloane is terrifically annoying as Elsa’s husband, wealthy lawyer Arthur Bannister; and Glenn Anders shows off one of the great all-time voices as Grisby, Bannister’s unsuspecting partner. Like The Stranger, the film suffers from awkward moments — Welles famously fought with studio head Harry Cohn over the editing and various stylistic touches — but even as minor Welles it’s an awful lot of fun. Columbia wanted Welles to make sure to show off Hayworth’s beauty, which was recently on display in such hits as Gilda and Cover Girl, so he goes way overboard, changing her hair color and zooming in far too close far too often. Based on Sherwood King’s novel If I Die Before I Wake, The Lady from Shanghai is a wicked tale of crime and corruption, lust and revenge. “Talk of money and murder,” O’Hara says at one point. “I must be insane, or else all these people are lunatics.” In another scene, Elsa says to him, “I’m not what you think I am. I just try to be like that.” The film is worth seeing for the spectacular ending alone, which takes place in a funhouse hall of mirrors. A new digital restoration of The Lady from Shanghai continues through February 6 at Film Forum, screening with Greg Ford and Mark Kausler’s 2004 cell-animated cartoon short, It’s the Cat.